Andres Iniesta has reflected on the secret behind his success, his understanding with Lionel Messi and his ambitions for club and country.
The Barcelona midfielder, who finished third in the 2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or, sat down to talk with the governing body’s official website for an interview published today.
First up, the 28-year-old was asked why he felt he can play at the level and consistency he is currently at.
“The secret lies in the stability I’ve got outside the game, with my wife, my daughter, my family and the people around me,” Iniesta explained.
“But everybody’s different. There will be players who might not be having the best of times off the field, but once they get on the pitch it’s the ideal place to get everything out their system.
“But, in my case, I think that the two worlds are very closely linked.”
The player also reiterated that he would be happy to stay at the Camp Nou to the end of his career.
“I’ve always said that my dream and my ambition would be to hang up my boots at the club I’ve been with since I was 12, a club that’s given me practically everything.
“So obviously, leaving doesn’t even cross my mind right now because I’m in the best place I could ever be. That said, it’ll be my performances that decide how long I carry on.
“The day that I don’t feel I can give 100 per cent [I’ll stop], because I wouldn’t want to cheat the club. That’s only logical.”
Iniesta was asked of his understanding with Lionel Messi, and whether Messi’s success can be attributed to Barca, or if Barca’s success is down to Messi.
“I think a great team comes about when each person plays to his full potential. Barca are better with Leo in the team and Leo plays better with Barca.
“Football isn’t an individual sport, it’s a team game in which individuals stand out much more when everyone’s pulling together.
“I play better when Leo’s there and he’s a better player alongside us and that’s what matters: the fact we all feel we’ve a part to play in doing things right.
“Messi said I would be a worthy FIFA Ballon d’Or winner? Well… (laughs) It’s nice of Leo to say so, particularly since he’s a teammate of mine who I’ve known for a long time and who plays alongside me.
“It’s very nice of him. Even though we were both on the podium for this award, I didn’t consider him a rival, not for an instant.
“He’s still my teammate. I was as happy for Leo to win his fourth Ballon d’Or [as if I’d won it myself].”
Iniesta was asked to reflect on 2012 and pick out a particular highlight.
“The European Championships, maybe, because of how important that championship was to the team and because no other national side has achieved what we did [winning back-to-back European Championships either side of a World Cup win].
“And well, it’s like I always say: more than anything else, I most enjoy the good feeling that comes with playing well, feeling happy and improving every day. That for me is what means the most, year after year.
“Was 2012 a bad year, for only winning the one trophy with Barca? I wouldn’t say that, I’d focus on the fact we won the Copa del Rey and came very close in both La Liga and the Champions League. In sport and at Barca, we’re always expected to fight for every title and that’s what we did.
“And we’ve gone all the way in other years, even though we fell short this time. In 2012 we were right on the verge of where we needed to be to win things, but we just fell a little short.
“This year we’ll use that as an incentive to fight for every trophy once more.”
The previous calendar year also saw Pep Guardiola leave the club, Eric Abidal undergo a liver transplant and Tito Vilanova see his cancer return.
“Guardiola leaving is just something that happens: he and the club reached that agreement and so it’s something normal, natural and which happens a lot at every club.
“The other two things [Abidal and Vilanova] were very tough to deal with. They were very tough to live through, particularly for them and their families.
“The only thing we’ve tried to do is be by their sides, try and find strength from somewhere and give them our support, so that little by little they can get well and rejoin the group again.
“Part of why the squad’s so vibrant and so determined to do well is down to those difficult blows we’ve had to overcome.”
Iniesta then looked ahead to 2013 and the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualification on the horizon for Spain
“Do we want to win the Confederations Cup to erase 2009’s memory? Yes, yes… in football you often get the chance to win something again, or win something that you’d previously lost.
“So, this year will give us the opportunity to do that and that’ll be our goal when we go over there. But we won’t forget we’ll be up against other national teams that want to win too.
“There’ll be the host nation, former world champions and on top of that it’ll be in Brazil, which should provide a very special backdrop. It’ll be great.
“And has qualifying for 2014 in Brazil been made harder for the home draw with France? Yes, it’s true. Even though we always say it, it’s true that nowadays it’s very difficult to win games, whichever national team you’re playing against.
“And when it comes to France, even more so. When you’re not quite on top of your game, the opposition can beat you or hold you to a draw, and that’s what happened against France.
“But we’re fully confident that we’re capable of staying top, seeing our games through and, why not, going and winning in France [on 26 March]. The squad’s got what it takes to do that.”